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Tuesday, 09 March 2010 10:33

Ubuntu: reverse type is cool. And unreadable

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There are times when one gets the feeling that the good folk at Canonical who design and develop the Ubuntu GNU/Linux distribution have got their heads screwed on the right way.

There are other times when one wonders where they got some of the ideas that they implement.

Right through its existence, Ubuntu has sported a dusty brown visage. There have been some variations, that have brought the colour closer to that of a baby's bowel movement, but it has never left brown and yellow far behind. Change was called for and it has finally arrived.

Now, it has turned purple. Deep purple in parts, light in others, a kind of shaded background that is neither here nor there. I can live with it - but who chose the desktop theme which constitutes the default?

The theme chosen displays all type on the desktop in reverse. Are the people at Canonical unaware that the human eye has never been comfortable with masses of reverse type? Of course, reverse type looks "cool" and the juvenile types, who have hormones to burn, love it.

When one types an address into the Firefox address bar, the remembered URLs come up - and while the names of the sites are in reverse and readable, the actual URLs are a bright shade of blue. Bright blue type on a dark background. Readability at its best.


If one uses an application like Skype, the menu items cannot be seen at all. They are all dark and become visible only when the mouse pointer moves over them. Does the Ubuntu userbase avoid Skype en masse?

Of course, I'm sure that some reader or the other will happen along and shout, "change it if you don't like it." Right. But then what kind of user is Ubuntu aiming at - those who are familiar with computers and GNU/Linux or those who are outside the tent? Those who need to start it up and then just use it or those who want to make a thousand changes and are comfortable doing so before they even open a browser?

I am no fan of Windows, but the desktop colour choices Microsoft has made and its desktop themes are much more pleasing to the eye than anything on Ubuntu. And I'm pretty sure that there are people at Canonical who are vastly more talented than their counterparts at Microsoft.

The themes may well be the work of the GNOME developers but that is no excuse. Whatever Ubuntu looks like will be attributed to only one source.

In closing, I hope that what is given below is just an aberration in the alpha releases:

sam@sammo:~$ sudo apt-get update && apt-get dist-upgrade
[sudo] password for sam:
Hit http://au.archive.ubuntu.com lucid Release.gpg

Fetched 1,737B in 3s (552B/s)
Reading package lists... Done
E: Could not open lock file /var/lib/dpkg/lock - open (13: Permission denied)
E: Unable to lock the administration directory (/var/lib/dpkg/), are you root?

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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